Biodiversity researcher Viktor Kazalis: “Living experiences of nature are crucial in how we imagine nature and environmental issues”
A recent Franco-German study shows that people are becoming more and more distant from nature, either physically, in terms of the distance between their habitats and natural space, or culturally. Viktor Kazalis is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Leipzig who participated in this study, which we already talked about in GoodPlanet Mag. This expert explains the ins and outs of biodiversity conservation.
How can we explain this growing distance between human settlements and nature? Is it related to urbanization?
The phenomenon of distance between man and nature is explained by 3 parallel movements: urbanization, environmental degradation and lifestyle change. The increase in urban population results in a disconnection from nature as we live in more urban and man-made environments. The share of the world’s population living in cities has increased from 34% in the 1960s to 56% today. At the same time, urbanization leads to the degradation and decline of suburban natural spaces. Finally, culturally and spiritually, we are moving further and further away from nature in our experiences, leisure, and lifestyle.
[À lire aussi Philippe Bihouix : « la vraie ville « smart », c’est celle qui repose avant tout sur l’intelligence de ses habitants »]
What does this mean in the relationship between man and nature?
Much research in environmental psychology shows the connection between the experiences we have with nature and the attitudes and behaviors we adopt as a result. Experiencing nature is crucial to how we conceive of nature and its associated environmental issues. This awareness is important in adopting pro-environmental behaviors. Therefore, it is likely that being away from nature, experiencing less of nature, makes it difficult to deal with environmental problems and environmental crises. In addition, childhood nature experiences have been shown to play a crucial role in building attitudes toward nature.
[À lire aussi L’être humain s’éloigne (spatialement) de plus en plus de la nature]
Is it not possible to see an opportunity to better protect part of the ecosystems in this phenomenon of alienation?
This is indeed the paradox of our field of study. We can say that increasing nature experiences can contribute to environmental degradation. We say that there are different ways to experience nature without at the expense of nature. In addition to national parks where activities such as hiking are very limited, there are places where everyone can come into contact with nature, such as more accessible suburban natural spaces, in addition to integral reserves with no human activity.
How to restore the relationship between man and nature?
We suggest increasing nature experiences. The possible range is wide. The first step is to promote access to nature, for example by developing suburban natural spaces with educational content. Or to develop nature activities in the context of tourism. Finally, we can enhance the presence of nature in works and cultural products such as documentaries, books and films. Studies show that representations of nature in cultural production are decreasing.
“Otherness in relation to man is an important element of the moment of nature experience. »
Specifically, what does it mean to create new experiences of nature?
This can range from going for a walk in the woods near your home and spotting a bird, to hiking and camping in a national park, to eco-volunteering. The gradient of nature experience depends on each person’s experience. Otherness in relation to man is an important element of the moment of experience of nature.
[À lire aussi L’art de cohabiter avec le vivant, selon Baptiste Morizot]
And what does this mean in terms of public policy?
In my opinion, the big challenge is to give urban people access to quality semi-natural areas such as forests or grasslands. However, by minimizing human footprints such as equipment or concrete. This measure was recognized in the framework of the agreement signed at the end of COP15.
[À lire aussi Nadia Belaidi, chercheuse CNRS à propos de la COP15 sur la biodiversité : « la COP15 sur la biodiversité a abordé des enjeux aussi importants que ceux de la COP27 sur le climat »]
Finally, a more personal question, what is your best nature experience?
A good question that comes to mind is when I can watch a cormorant fishing and eating with a mask and snorkel for a few minutes. It was an introduction to behavior I had never seen before. This experience changed my perception of marine life, I now see it as something more alive.
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